Nov 26, 2006

Biblical Theology 101

What is Biblical Theology and why is everyone on about it?

1. Biblical Theology is a Theological Discipline
"Biblical theology is integral to the whole process of discerning the meaning of the biblical text and of applying this meaning to the contemporary scene. While we distinguish it from other theological disciplines, such as systematics, historical theology, apologetics and practical theology, its relationship to these disciplines is one of interdependence. Because biblical theology is the fruit of exegesis of the texts of the various biblical corpora it has a logical priority over systematics and the other specialized types of theologizing (NDBT)."

2. Biblical Theology Interprets the Bible Theologically
"Peter Stuhlmacher states the matter trenchantly: ‘A biblical theology … must attempt to interpret the Old and New Testament tradition as it wants to be interpreted. For this reason, it cannot read these texts only from a critical distance as historical sources but must, at the same time, take them seriously as testimonies of faith which belong to the Holy Scripture of early Christianity’ (*How To Do Biblical Theology, p. 1) (NDBT)."

3. Biblical Theology is Synthetic
"Biblical theology is characterized by two distinct but related activities which may be broadly described as analysis and synthesis. The first seeks to reconstruct the individual theologies of the writings or collections of writings of the Bible." The second presents "...the theology of particular themes across the whole Bible. This approach, called ‘pan-biblical theology’ by James Barr, is concerned ultimately to construct one single theology for the Bible in its entirety. It confronts the question: in what sense can the Old and New Testaments be read as a coherent whole (NDBT)."

4. Biblical Theology is Thematic
"Concepts rather than words are a surer footing on which to base thematic study such as that involved in biblical-theological synthesis (NDBT)."

5. Biblical Theology attempts to do "whole-Bible" theology
By undertaking the task of synthesis, the end goal is to present a whole-Bible theology. Biblical theologians try to find unifying themes, or a single unifying theme, for the OT and NT. Such a "center," as it is called, helps to understand the logic of the progressive nature of the Biblical revelation. "Even though the Bible is strictly speaking a collection of books written over hundreds of years with widely varying contents, it does tell a unified story; the tale of creation, fall, judgment and redemption culminates with the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, which the apostles regarded as attested to by all Scripture (NDBT)."

"Thus biblical theology explores the Bible’s rich and many-sided presentation of its unified message. It is committed to declaring ‘the whole counsel of God … [in order] to feed the church of God’ (NDBT)."

6. Biblical Theology is Christ-centered
"Finally, biblical theology maintains a conscious focus on Jesus Christ, not in some naive and implausible sense, where Christ is found in the most unlikely places, but in noting God’s faithfulness, wisdom and purpose in the progress of salvation history. It reads not only the NT, but also the OT, as a book about Jesus. Even if in the OT religion was focused on present relationship with God, based on his dealings with and for his people in the past, there is a firm and growing belief in the future coming of God on the day of the Lord for judgment and salvation. Christians believe that this hope culminates in Jesus and read the OT as a book which prepares for and prophesies his coming and the people of God he would renew and call into existence. The books of the NT connect Jesus with the OT in a variety of ways, seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, the ideal to which individuals and institutions aspired, or the climax of God’s dealings revealed in various types.
Virtually every theme in biblical theology, as may be seen from the examples noted in the previous two sections, leads to Christ as the final and definitive installment (NDBT)."

Of the "themes" proposed by biblical theology, whether they be 'covenant', 'land', 'temple', 'sacrifice', 'kingdom', 'God', most biblical theologians will subsume these centers into the overall biblical storyline's emphasis upon the consummating work of Jesus Christ.

"What is biblical theology? To sum up, biblical theology may be defined as theological interpretation of Scripture in and for the church. It proceeds with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyse and synthesize the Bible’s teaching about God and his relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bible’s overarching narrative and Christocentric focus (NDBT)."

Excerpted from "Biblical Theology" by Brian S. Rosner (Moore Theological College, Sydney).

B. S. Rosner, "Biblical Theology" in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. D. Alexander and B. S. Rosner. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2000.

Nov 22, 2006

Annotated Old Testament Bibliography from the Denver Journal

I'm always looking for good bibliography. This one is pretty complete from an evangelical point of view. Covers everything.

Nov 18, 2006

An Anglican Evangelical Definition?

Archbishop Peter Jensen is perhaps the best known proponent of evangelicalism in the Anglican church today. In January of 2003, he addressed hundreds of evangelical clergy in the UK in a talk entitled, Anglicanism: Past, Present and Future. In the winter of 2005 he delivered the Boyer Lectures on "The Future of Jesus." In his best-known publication, The Revelation of God, he argues stongly that God's revelation occurs in the Gospel as it is unfolded in Scripture.

No doubt you may have noticed what I have, that throughout his talks and his publications, he is emphatically centered upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a Bible-based way. For evangelicals, though, he offers us some comfort in another way. He speaks, leads and acts as one of many great evangelical leaders in the Church today. And as such, he's one to speak when it comes to defining just what an Anglican Evangelical is.

Jensen stresses the following:

1. An Evangelical Christian first, an Anglican second
2. An Evangelical
(a) trusts the Bible as authoritative and infallable, the primary source of revelation that reveals the Gospel
(b) Christ-centered and Cross-centered
(c) is focussed on bringing the Gospel to the world
(d) is concerned about the seriousness of sin and God's coming wrath
(e) has an ecclesiology based upon a strong doctrine of local fellowship - not denominations or buildings
(f) highly values expository preaching
(g) highly values the Lord's Supper
(h) highly values the Reformation roots of Anglicanism, The Thrity-Nine Articles, and the Prayer Book.

I couldn't agree more.

Book Review: God's Big Picture, According to Plan, Gospel & Kingdom

Three of my favorite books by Anglican Evangelicals are reviewed over at Nine Marks.

Grame Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom and According to Plan.
Vaughn Robert's God's Big Picture, which is recommended on this blog.

I am totally convinced that the only way one can really learn to appreciate the message of Scripture and personally appropriate it in the most meaningful way is to grasp the overall sweep of the story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation, whereby God is bringing about the glory of his everlasting Kingdom through the Savior King Jesus.

Dr. Packer's 80th Year Celebrated at Beeson Divinity School

Take a look here the recap of the recent conference at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, "J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future." Dr. Packer's address at the conference can be downloaded as mp3 here. A book with the papers from the conference is soon forthcoming from Baker Academic.

  • Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington D.C. and founder of the Nine Marks ministry
  • David Neff, editor at Christianity Today
  • Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School and noted theologian
  • Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things
  • and more

Nov 11, 2006

ESV Search bar for Firefox 2.0!

This rocks. Add an ESV search to your toolbar in Firefox 2.0!

Nov 10, 2006

Kingdom of God Part 2: The Parables of the Kingdom

I think that any discussion of the concept of the Kingdom of God has to begin where the terminology begins. While an interpretive description of the Old Testament may involve labeling episodes of God's redemptive history with "Kingdom" descriptors, in one sense or another, it has to be acknowledged that the first explicit use of Kingdom of God, "basilea tou theou," occurs in the New Testament. While I am not saying that the idea is not found in the OT (Ps 45; Dan 2:44), the concept as such is not fully developed and not used so widely and frequently as it is in the NT. So it is in the NT that we shall start. Also, for the sake of simplicity, I'm not going to argue whether or not the use in the Pauline literature predates it's use in the Synoptics and John. Rather, from a canonical perspective we'll start by examining the usage in the Synoptics and go from there. This also tends to mirror the way that the concept of the Kingdom of God is studied elsewhere (cf. Ladd; NIDOTTE and NIDNTTE; NDBT, Ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Leicester: InterVarsity, 2000).

Donald Hagner, in his NDBT article, states that "The main theme of the Synoptic Gospels is found in Jesus’ announcement that the long-awaited promise concerning the kingdom of God is coming to fulfillment in and through his own ministry and mission (emphasis mine)." I agree. Once can hardly read the Synoptics without encountering and re-encountering the phrase, basilea tou theou, "kingdom of God." We only need look to John the Baptizer's announcement, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel" (Mk 1:15). This phrase occurs another 13 times in Mark and 32x in Luke. Mathew's "kingdom of heaven" term occurs 32x. Most are agreed that Matthew's phrase reflects a Jewish preference for substituting "heaven" for "God." Having been introduced by John, the usages in the Synoptics are carried on by Jesus and can be broken down into a couple of categories: (1) Deeds that manifest the kingdom and (2) Words that tell of the kingdom.

Words of Jesus
Beginning with Mark 1:15, the use of "...fulfilled..." (peplhrwtai - perf. passive) suggests the bringing to completion of a period of time (BDAG, 5981.2). From this point forward, Jesus is bringing to completion something that has already begun. As we follow the trajectory of the Synoptics we learn that Jesus message is the "good news of the kingdom" which he preaches (Matt 4:23; 9:35//Luke 4:43). Matthew is also quick to add that his preaching ministry is accompanied by healing . Some of the main elements of this teaching include:
  • the kingdom is taught in parables and isn't easily grasped (Mark 4:11//Luke 8:10//Matt 13:11)
  • there will be partakers in the kingdom - the poor, the meek, the merciful and so on (Matt 5:1 ff.)
  • there will be those persecuted for the kingdom (5:10)
  • some will be teachers in the kingdom (5:19)
  • some will be eunuchs or make themselves eunuchs (Matt 19:12)
  • the rich will have difficulty entering the kingdom (Matt 19:23)
  • some will be the least and the greatest in the kingdom (5:19)
  • a member of the kingdom is greater that John the Baptist (Luke 7:28)
  • ...and the greatest is like a little child (Matt 18:1ff.)
  • one enters the kingdom by a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees' (5:20)
  • tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom before Pharisees because of their belief (21:31)
  • one can pray that the kingdom come (6:10)
  • the patriarchs and prophets will be in the kingdom, along with others from all over, reclining at table (Luke 13:28ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a seed that grows and is harvested (Mark 4:26ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a grain of mustard seed that grows into a tree that shades birds' nests (4:31ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a farmer's field of wheat and weeds which when harvested, the first are gathered and the second burned (Matt 13:24)
  • the kingdom is like...a king who settled accounts with his debtors and showed mercy (18:23ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a householder who pays the first and last the same wage (20:1ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a king who held a wedding feast for his son and due to the indifference and cruel misdeeds of those invited, canceled their invitations and invited just anyone, and among those, only the ones with wedding garments are found worthy (Matt 22:1ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...ten virgins, five of whom were unprepared with their lamps to meet the bridegroom and were locked out of the wedding feast (Matt 25:1)
  • the message of the kingdom is spread and announced by the disciples (Matt 10:7//Luke 9:2)
  • contemporaries of Jesus will be witnesses to the kingdom of God (Mark 9:1//Luke 9:27)
  • the kingdom should be sought as a source of blessing (Matt 6:33)
As I have compiled these references to the kingdom of God (which aren't intended to be exhaustive), it appears clear that the authors of the gospels have arranged the material on the kingdom of God in an organized way.

The exhortation at the beginning of the Synoptics, especially in Luke and Matthew, is to seek the kingdom of God. And it's not something entirely new, because as the authors state, it is coming to it's fulfillment in Jesus. As the story progresses we learn that the kingdom of God is a wonderful thing indeed.

It is a place of blessing where there is justice, forgiveness, mercy, truth and righteousness. And it is equally a place where those who value and practice those virtues suffer. And we can't also ignore that, perhaps in a most difficult parable, the kingdom will involve people who will be judged. It will be big and encompassing of all people, regardless of ethnicity. Amazingly, the righteousness that the kingdom demands is the same righteousness that the King Jesus provides, for those who believe in him.

The Kingdom is also somehow an activity. It's like a field or a farmer or a seed or king or virgins who do things.

And so that's why it's incongruent for those who claim to be followers of the King not to be those who truly believe in the King. It's as odd for someone to be invited into the kingdom and fail to really get on board with the program as it is for a wedding guest to show up at a wedding without a garment. Thinking canonically, we have here the notion that conversion must be a reality for anyone to really be part of the kingdom of God. One can't sort of just show up and expect to be "in."

We also have the basis of the theme of suffering, articulated by the apostles, that Jesus models. For Jesus will enter into the kingdom only through the suffering of the cross, and the apostles will drink such a cup as well.

Up next: The Kingdom of God Part 3: The Purpose of the Parables

Nov 1, 2006

The Nativity Story

While preparing to watch Flags of our Fathers the other night, I saw the preview for the upcoming Christmas film, The Nativity Story. This looks promising and certainly should do well over the holiday. There's a great piece over at Christianity Today about the filmmakers, Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, and how their relationship and film came to be. I'm looking forward to seeing it.